John Webster shows how Barth’s work as a whole should be regarded as a moral theology. He opens with a study of Barth’s ethical thinking in key writings from the period of his break with theological liberalism, and then highlights the moral anthropology set out in his lectures on ethics from the end of the 1920s. He studies the themes of original sin, hope and freedom in Barth’s Church Dogmatics, illustrating Barth’s concern to prove that divine grace shapes and restores human agency. He explores the theme of the missionary activity of the church in relation to Barth’s remarkable treatment of the prophetic office of Christ. He also draws a contrast between the moral anthropology of Barth and Luther.
This book is also part of the Theology and Doctrine Collection (16 Vols.)
“Human wickedness is bound up with supra-personal realities that both pre-exist and are unleashed by sinful acts with renewed energy. Paul Ricoeur notes the ‘mysterious aspect of evil, namely that if anyone of us initiates evil, inaugurates it, each of us also discovers evil, finds it already there, in himself, outside himself, and before himself’.41 What Barth protests against is not that sin is derived, but against the view that its derivation bypasses deliberation and choice, so that it becomes more easily describable as a disease than as moral evil.” (Page 75)
“Failure to attend to this may lead us, perhaps unconsciously, into viewing evil as necessary, as inevitable and, therefore, excusable, and into viewing ourselves as its victims rather than its perpetrators.” (Page 66)
“Dogmatics, precisely because its theme is the encounter of God and humanity, is from the beginning moral theology” (Page 8)
“In this connection, it is important that Barth treat the scriptural account of Adam and the fall as saga rather than history. To read it in such a way is to suggest that ‘it is the name of Adam the transgressor which God gives to world-history as a whole’.32 De-historicizing Adam, that is, lifts the concept of Adam’s sin out of the idiom of causality, in which to be a sinner is to be the recipient of an alien guilt. Adam is not our predecessor but our type; Adam’s successors are simply those who follow the ‘rule and perverted order’ manifest in him.” (Page 73)
“Sin is deliberate action; linked to the notion of inheritance, it comes to have a ‘hopelessly naturalistic, deterministic and even fatalistic ring’.30 Properly speaking, then, by original sin is meant ‘the voluntary and responsible life of everyman … which by virtue of the judicial sentence passed on it … is the sin of every man, the corruption which he brings on himself so that as the one who does so … he is necessarily and inevitably corrupt’” (Pages 72–73)
. . . a well-researched and closely-rounded study of Barth's theology of human action. The author concludes the book with two outstanding chapters: first, a profound comparison of Luther and Barth on human agency, and second, the influence of Barth and Luther on one of today's leading theologians, Eberhard Jungel. To be commended without hesitation.
—John D. Godsey, Wesley Theological Seminary